Athletes and the Vaccine

By Hailey Abdilla

Since the Covid-19 vaccine came out at the beginning of 2021, debates over vaccination mandates have sprung up, and professional sports are no exception. Despite not instating  a vaccination mandate on the athletes, the NBA recently stated that all referees must be fully vaccinated, unless granted a religious and/or medical exemption. On top of this, all team personnel  including trainers, coaches, etc, must also receive a full vaccination if they intend to interact with the players or  referees. Although players will not be required to receive the vaccination, unvaccinated players will be forced to follow different protocols than vaccinated players. Fully vaccinated players do not need to undergo regular testing and do not need to be quarantined from the team unless they begin to display Covid-19 symptoms. Conversely, unvaccinated players are subjected to regular screenings for Covid-19 and must be quarantined from the team for two weeks if exposed. Despite the NBA’s decision to not require athletes to be vaccinated, some city mayors are enforcing vaccine requirements for those playing sports inside public buildings. Kyrie Irving, point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, could risk missing all of Brooklyn’s home games if he does not receive the vaccine by the beginning of the season due to mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order which forces all athletes playing indoor sports to prove they have received at least one vaccination shot. Another athlete who faced not being able to participate in home games was Golden State Warriors star Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins has since acquired the vaccine according to head coach Steve Kerr. Numerous other NBA stars have decided to remain unvaccinated such as Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal and Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac. Despite the publicity regarding NBA players who are unvaccinated, about 90% of the league has received all vaccination shots including Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James and Milwaukee Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. By taking the vaccine, these icons of the league set an example for their colleagues to follow. A variety of NBA athletes have also started a campaign in order to encourage the public to get the vaccine, headed by Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. As of October 5th, the NBA has decided to allow NBA athletes the choice on whether or not they would like to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, but mandates have been enforced for referees and personnel and a majority of NBA players have been fully vaccinated.